Texas A&M Aggies: Tyrann Mathieu

Q&A with GeauxTigerNation's Gary Laney

October, 19, 2012
10/19/12
10:00
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As we approach the SEC clash between No. 6 LSU and No. 18 Texas A&M, we'll take a closer look at the Aggies' opponent with Gary Laney, who covers the Tigers for ESPN's GeauxTigerNation. Here are three questions for Laney and his takes on the Tigers:

1. Clearly LSU's defense has thrived so far this season. What's been the key for them on that side of the ball, and how have they defended mobile quarterbacks since they'll see one on Saturday?

[+] EnlargeZach Mettenberger, Lerentee McCray
AP Photo/John RaouxLSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger has not taken the Tigers offense to the next level this season.
LSU lost some big play ability when Tyrann Mathieu was dismissed from the team, but really, the defense may be as a good as last year. At linebacker, the Tigers are definitely better as Kevin Minter and Lamin Barrow are both rounding into solid linebackers, definitely upgrades from a season ago. If the secondary took a half step backwards after losing Morris Claiborne, Mathieu and Brandon Taylor off last year's team, the linebackers are clearly at least a half step better.

What's interesting about this week's matchup with Manziel is LSU has been spending the last few weeks preparing for mobile quarterbacks. It really started when Auburn began getting mileage out of a wildcat package with freshman Jonathan Wallace, a move that caught LSU a bit off guard, but was a sign of things to come. The next week, Towson's Grant Enders was a dual-threat type who had some big runs, then LSU dove into the heart of SEC play with Florida's Jeff Driskel and South Carolina's Connor Shaw, two more runners, in back-to-back games.

I don't think any of these guys are as talented as Johnny Manziel, but LSU should be well versed on containing a running threat in the pocket, staying in gaps on the cut/read option and all the other tricks you have to pull out against a running QB. They've been preparing for that for four straight weeks now.

(Read full post)

Video: SEC conference preview

August, 20, 2012
8/20/12
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Kirk Herbstreit, Todd Blackledge and Scott Van Pelt preview the SEC in 2012.

State of the conference: SEC

August, 17, 2012
8/17/12
9:03
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The watch is on around the rest of the country.

When will somebody other than the SEC win a national championship?

The SEC will look to extend its streak to seven straight BCS national titles in 2012, and the two teams most likely to keep that streak alive are the usual suspects.

Alabama has won two of the last three national titles, and LSU will also start the season in the top 3 of the polls after going 13-0 last season and then losing to the Crimson Tide in the BCS National Championship Game.

The SEC’s critics insist that it’s top-heavy and that it’s really a league comprised of two or three heavyweights and a lot of mediocre teams after that.

But when you look deeper, the parity speaks for itself.

Nobody has repeated as SEC champion since Tennessee in 1997 and 1998, and four different SEC teams have won national titles during the league’s current streak.

LSU received a blow last week when coach Les Miles announced that star cornerback and return specialist Tyrann Mathieu had been dismissed and wouldn’t play this season.

Mathieu was a game-changer for the Tigers, who will undoubtedly miss his playmaking skills on defense and special teams.

Alabama had to retool its defense after losing seven starters off a unit that led the country a year ago in all four major statistical categories. The Crimson Tide are also replacing their top rusher and four top receivers on offense.

They’re trying to become the first school to repeat as outright national champion since Nebraska in 1994 and 1995.

If it’s not Alabama or LSU mixing it up this season in the national championship equation, Arkansas, Georgia and South Carolina all think they could have something to say about who takes home that crystal trophy in January.

The Hogs say they’ve moved on from the Bobby Petrino scandal this past spring and are more determined than ever to break through in the Western Division. They get both Alabama and LSU in Fayetteville this season, but are 1-5 against those two clubs over the last three seasons.

Georgia and South Carolina have represented the East in the SEC championship game each of the last two seasons, although neither was very competitive in Atlanta.

The Bulldogs avoid Alabama, Arkansas and LSU in the West this season, which makes them the favorite in the East. They should again be outstanding on defense, but are inexperienced in their offensive line.

Defense should also be the Gamecocks’ strength, and if Marcus Lattimore is all the way back after injuring his knee last season, he’s the kind of running back who could carry a team to a title.

Looking for a surprise team?

The first part of Mississippi State’s schedule sure looks inviting. If the Bulldogs can start 6-1 or even 7-0, look out.

And in the East, the winner of the Florida-Tennessee game on Sept. 15 could give Georgia and South Carolina something to think about.

Where’s it all end?

If history is any indication, in Miami at Sun Life Stadium.

Tyrann Mathieu is receiving a lot of schools, as he plans his college football future.

About 20 schools are interested in the All-American defensive back and have contacted LSU to get permission to speak with Mathieu. He has already visited McNeese State and Nicholls State officials said on Wednesday that they were granted permission to speak with Mathieu, but haven't heard from him.

What we still don't know is if Mathieu, who was dismissed from LSU for reportedly failing yet another drug test, will return to LSU in 2013. Reports surfaced this week that he was interested in sitting out the 2012 season, paying his own way at LSU and returning to the Tigers' football team in 2013. However, the school won't comment either way on it.

Sumlin names starting QB

Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin announced on Wednesday that redshirt freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel will start for the Aggies in the season opener against Louisiana Tech.

For a while it seemed as though redshirt sophomore Jameill Showers, who is the only quarterback with any game experience, would eventually win the starting spot, but Manziel made strides during fall camp and passed Showers after a solid showing during Texas A&M's scrimmage Saturday.

"Johnny has performed the best at this stage and we will proceed until the season opener with him getting the first-team reps," Sumlin said. "My policy is simple really; the best player plays. Competition is a great thing and we need more competition at all of our positions. All of our quarterbacks have competed well and I expect them to continue to push Johnny."

Dyer not playing football this fall

It now appears that former Auburn running back Michael Dyer won't be playing football this fall.

Dyer's uncle, Andre Dyer, told ESPN's Joe Schad that his nephew intends to enroll in classes somewhere, but won't play football this fall. Instead, he'll concentrate on returning in 2013.

Dyer's drama began with his indefinite suspension at Auburn for violating unspecified team rules before last season's Chick-fil-A Bowl and continued with him transferring to and later leaving Arkansas State. Dyer, who followed former Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn, was dismissed from Arkansas State for violating team rules.

Andre Dyer said the goal is now to "get Michael's head in the right place, work on building character and addressing issues before turning back to look at any interest from major schools."

That's certainly a good thing for Dyer, who eclipsed the 1,000-yard rushing mark as both a freshman and sophomore at Auburn. Football should be put on the back burner, as Dyer tries to get his life in order.

Mississippi State's stadium expanding

Mississippi State is about to begin its $75 million expansion of Davis Wade Stadium. It's expected to be finished before the 2014 season.

More than 6,000 seats will be added to bring the stadium's capacity to 61,337. There are also plans for a second high-definition video board, premium seating, restrooms and concession stands.

Mississippi State's new stadium capacity will rank just 12th out of 14 SEC teams, but expansion was needed, as the Bulldogs have sold out 16 straight games and have a waiting list for season tickets.

Lattimore strong during scrimmage

While he didn't play a lot in South Carolina's second scrimmage, running back Marcus Lattimore looked strong as he continues to return from his season-ending knee injury in 2011.

Lattimore only played during the Gamecocks' first two offensive series, but rushed for 23 yards on five carries. Two of his runs went for first downs, and he also caught a pass for 5 yards. He didn't generate a lot of yards, but what pleased coaches was he was able to break several tackles during his runs.

"Marcus made a few runs," coach Steve Spurrier said. "There wasn't a lot of blocking, wasn't a whole lot of holes in there, but he's been going against the first defense."

Even with South Carolina's quarterbacks struggling at times during the scrimmage, freshman tight end Jerell Adams had an impressive outing, as he led all receivers by catching four passes for 83 yards and a touchdown.

For more on South Carolina's scrimmage, check out the Gamecocks' official website.

Gurley solid again in Bulldogs' scrimmage

Freshman running back Todd Gurley continued to impress during fall camp, as he led all of Georgia's running backs with 87 yards and two touchdowns on seven carries in the Bulldogs' second scrimmage. During Georgia's two scrimmages, Gurley has combined for 167 yards and two scores on 15 carries.

Fellow freshman Keith Marshall added 62 yards on five carries, while Richard Samuel and Ken Malcome rushed for 40 and 35 yards, respectively.

Coach Mark Richt wasn't too pleased with parts of the scrimmage, as turnovers became an epidemic.

"I saw some good things," Richt said. "Some good things happened, but I saw a lot of bad things. I saw three pics...bad interceptions, although Corey Moore made a great play on one. Every time the quarterback got touched, they fumbled. We weren't tackling the quarterback, but you're not supposed to fumble every time you're touched."

For more on Georgia's scrimmage, check out the school's official website.
HOOVER, Ala. -- The 2012 SEC media days All-SEC team was announced Thursday and LSU led the conference with the most first-team selections with seven. The media has voted for a preseason All-SEC team and predicted the order in which each team would finish since 1992.

It should be noted that the media has only picked the correct SEC champion four times since 1992. Those correct picks were Florida in 1994 and 1995, LSU in 2007 and Florida in 2008.

Here are some notes from the league on the All-SEC team:
    [+] EnlargeMarcus Lattimore
    Daniel Shirey/US PresswireSEC members are expecting big things this season for South Carolina's Marcus Lattimore.

  • The 222 voters is an all-time high for SEC media days. The previous high was 177 voters in 2010.
  • South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore was the leading vote-getter this season with 201 of 222 votes. He is the fourth running back in the past six years to be the highest vote-getter (2007 – Darren McFadden, Arkansas; 2008 – Knowshon Moreno, Georgia and Percy Harvin, Florida; 2009 – Tim Tebow and Brandon Spikes, Florida; 2010 – Mark Ingram, Alabama; 2011 – Alshon Jeffery, South Carolina).
  • Lattimore (2012) and Jeffery (2011) have been the leading vote-getters the last two seasons.
  • Alabama offensive lineman Barrett Jones is a three-time member of the SEC media days first team
  • South Carolina has had a sophomore make the media days first team for the third straight season – Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina, DE (2012); Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina, RB (2011); Stephon Gilmore, South Carolina, DB (2010).
  • Since 2000, Arkansas’ Darren McFadden is the only unanimous selection to the SEC media days All-SEC team, collecting all 80 votes.
  • LSU had the most first-team selections this season with 7. Since 1992, the most players on a first-team were nine by Alabama in 2011 and eight by Alabama (2010) and Florida (2009).
  • LSU leads with the most overall selections this season with 13. The total is the second highest ever, behind Alabama’s 16 last season. Prior to last season, Alabama (2010) and Florida (2009) had the most overall selections.
  • LSU is predicted to win the SEC championship by the media for the first time since 2007. It is the second time since 1992 that LSU has been predicted to win the league title. LSU did win the SEC title in 2007 and went on to the BCS title.

Here is what the complete first team looks like:

OFFENSE

QB: Tyler Wilson, Arkansas (127)
RB: Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina (201)
RB: Knile Davis, Arkansas (118)
WR: Da'Rick Rogers, Tennessee (106)
WR: Cobi Hamilton, Arkansas (67)
TE: Philip Lutzenkirchen, Auburn (158)
OL: D.J. Fluker, Alabama (171)
OL: Alex Hurst, LSU (125)
OL: Chance Warmack, Alabama (124)
OL: Luke Joeckel, Texas A&M (87)
C: Barrett Jones, Alabama (183)

DEFENSE

DL: Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina (140)
DL: Barkevious Mingo, LSU (126)
DL: Sam Montgomery, LSU (124)
DL: Corey Lemonier, Auburn (102)
ILB: Nico Johnson (84)
OLB: Jarvis Jones, Georgia (178)
OLB: Sean Porter, Texas A&M (81)
DB: Tyrann Mathieu, LSU (184)
DB: Eric Reid, LSU (142)
DB: Robert Lester, Alabama (131)
DB: Bacarri Rambo, Georgia (126)

SPECIAL TEAMS

K: Caleb Sturgis, Florida (127)
P: Brad Wing, LSU (153)
RS: Tyrann Mathieu, LSU (159)
AP: Dennis Johnson, Arkansas (86)

For a look at all three teams check out the SEC's official website.

Here's the predicted order of finish for the SEC champion and the votes:

1. LSU - 129
2. Alabama - 65
3. Georgia - 14
4. South Carolina - 6
5. Arkansas - 4
6. Auburn - 2
7. Florida - 1
8. Ole Miss - 1

Predicted divisional order:

EAST

1. Georgia (132)
2. South Carolina (72)
3. Florida (12)
4. Missouri (2)
5. Tennessee (4)
6. Vanderbilt
7. Kentucky

WEST

1. LSU (139)
2. Alabama (72)
3. Arkansas (6)
4. Auburn (4)
5. Texas A&M
6. Mississippi State
7. Ole Miss (1)

The SEC's preseason All-Star teams

July, 17, 2012
7/17/12
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Some of my best childhood memories go back to the Major League All-Star Game and sitting around and watching the Midsummer Classic with family members.

That’s what we did last week at our house.

So in keeping with the All-Star theme, we’ll select a preseason SEC All-Star team with the East going up against the West.

Who would win?

EAST

Offense
Defense
Special Teams
WEST

Offense
Defense
Special Teams

It's almost time for hundreds of media folk to pile into a swanky ballroom and kick off another year of SEC media days.

The festivities begin Tuesday at the Wynfrey Hotel in Hoover, Ala., and last until Thursday afternoon. The event serves as the unofficial kickoff to SEC football season.

So what should we be on the lookout for this year?

Well, the biggest news is all the star power that won't be making the trip. Two of the league's top rushers -- Marcus Lattimore and Christine Michael -- won't be in town. Yes, they are both coming off season-ending injuries, but so is Arkansas' Knile Davis, and he'll be in attendance.

One of the league's best, Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray won't be in Hoover, either. Nor will Bulldogs wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell.

Some other big names not on the list include Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron, LSU cornerback Tyrann Mathieu, South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney and Missouri quarterback James Franklin.

There are a lot of interesting storylines revolving around all those players, who serve as faces for their respective programs, and it's disappointing that they won't be around this week.

However, some quality names are on this year's roster, including Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones, Alabama offensive lineman Barrett Jones, Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson, Texas A&M linebacker Sean Porter, Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray and South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw.

I'm sure they'll all have plenty to say and should keep us all entertained.

Here are some other things to keep an eye on this week:
  • If you're coming into town, make sure you bring your protective gear for Thursday. That's when Alabama's up, and you'd better believe the lobby will be jam-packed with Tide fans. They come out in full force and expect things to be even tighter this year after that championship.
  • Arkansas players will have to answer a lot of questions surrounding their former coach, Bobby Petrino. How much of a distraction will his exit be this fall?
  • Also, what will new Arkansas coach John L. Smith say? He sure knows how to make a news conference exciting, so don't expect anything to be different in front of all those SEC scribes.
  • One coach not afraid to put on a show while at the podium is South Carolina's Steve Spurrier. The Head Ball Coach has been chirping this year, and he probably won't stop in Hoover.
  • Last year, there were a lot of questions about the quarterback talent in this league. This year, that isn't the case, as the league is as plentiful at the position as it has been in years.
  • Although only Davis will be in town, expect a lot of talk about three of the league's best running backs all coming off major, season-ending injuries.
  • Georgia has had an eventful offseason away from the field, and it's time to see how players and coach Mark Richt are feeling about all of the silly distractions. Also, what's in store for the Bulldogs' running game now that Isaiah Crowell is gone?
  • I wonder how many times Nick Saban and his players will be asked questions about comparisons to the 2010 team. You know how much Saban loves comparison talk. ...
  • Tennessee coach Derek Dooley should field a lot of questions about his job security this week. Regardless of how you feel about the time he's had and all the issues he's had to deal with, his seat is hotter than ever.
  • Texas A&M and Missouri are now officially members of the SEC. How will their players and coaches react to being surrounded by all those SEC writers? And how many more questions will they get about adjusting to their new conference?
  • LSU was on top of the college football world until last year's national championship. The Tigers bring back a boatload of talent, but can they finish things this year?
  • The good news for Auburn, South Carolina and Tennessee is their coaches won't have to deal with NCAA questions, unlike last year.
The SEC leads the nation with five players on the preseason watch list for the 2012 Jim Thorpe Award, which is presented annually to the nation's best defensive back.

LSU, which owns the past two Thorpe Award winners -- Patrick Peterson (2010) and Morris Claiborne (2011) -- leads the SEC with two players on the watch list.

Here are all five SEC players on the Thorpe list:
For a complete look at the Thorpe watch list, go here.
The SEC has a nation-leading 19 players on the 2012 preseason watch list for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, which is awarded annually to the nation's best defensive player. Alabama leads the SEC with five players on the list, while LSU is second with four.

Here are all 19 SEC players on the Nagurski Trophy list:
For the complete Nagurski Trophy watch list, go here.

The SEC also leads the country with 19 players on the 2012 preseason watch list for the Outland Trophy, which is presented annually to the nation's top interior lineman. Alabama leads the SEC with four players on the list, including reigning Outland Trophy winner Barrett Jones.

Here are all 19 SEC players on the Outland Trophy watch list:
For the full Outland Trophy watch list, go here.

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